Today, Town Square Inc. and a group of neighbors, scientists, artists and elected officials have been working together to change the future and the way we look at our own minds.
Their plan is to develop the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art, part of a vision to not only bridge the gap between the worlds of art and science, but to also build a comprehensive plan to spread ecological awareness throughout the borough and city.
Susan Anderson, a chairperson with Town Square Inc., met with her longtime friend, Councilman Steven Levin at her home last week to discuss the idea, which she began to organize a little over a year ago, and the possibilities for the future of North Brooklyn development.
“We’re envisioning a world-class institution that will be among the top, must-see places to go to when you come to New York City,” Anderson said. “And why not?”
At an estimated $100 million, the proposal for 100,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor art and science space, including exhibit halls, theaters, research labs, studios, classrooms and administrative offices, has all been designed to further explore the understanding of art and science, and their impact on the world around us.
In step with exceeding the current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, the plan calls for the creation of a “net zero” project, which can reuse waste and energy on site.
“It’s very important that this museum, when it’s up and running, stands on its own legs and is not an albatross on the taxpayer’s wallet,” she explained. “It can’t be in the middle of nowhere because that will put it in the category of a fiscally subsidized entity. So if it’s on the waterfront, you have subway access, you have bus access, and we have the ferries and they’re putting in bike lanes.”
To get the project off the ground and aid in promoting the plan for future investors, her hope is the project has been pitched in time to utilize some of ExxonMobil’s $19.5 million environmental benefits fund, part of the settlement reached by the Attorney General in 2010 for developing ecofriendly programs in response to oil spills in Greenpoint.
Sipping on some of Anderson’s homebrewed chai tea, Levin sat across the dining room table in Anderson’s Greenpoint townhouse, brainstorming over what he agrees could bring something to the community that has been long overdue.
“It really has a far-reaching and inclusive idea of what it could be, based on the idea that there are these great science museums for kids and teenagers in New Jersey and Philadelphia, but we don’t have one in Brooklyn,” Levin said. “It would really serve the populations of North Brooklyn really well.”
Levin said the next step in the plan should be the development of a feasibility study and the creation of a comprehensive blueprint to further prepare the museum for the next phase.
“I think this does have that long-term vision that has a great benefit to the community, and I would imagine this would be a really good public and private partnership,” he said. “It benefits the city so there should be public support for it, and the general business community should be into it.”
With a hopeful completion date before 2020, Anderson and her team are still in the early stages, and are currently in the process of submitting a request for proposal (RFP).
In the coming years and immediate subsequent phase for the project, she has explained there are plans to develop a series of pop-up museums to spread the idea throughout the community, and find the types of things people are looking for to help move this pioneering idea along.
Darrick Borowski, a creative director at Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture and one of the lead visionaries for the project, agrees that while the fusion of science and art has been understudied, it is not something that is entirely out of reach.
Together, Anderson and Borowski have already begun to develop coursework for the museum, some of which will include an “inventor's lab”, providing the components needed to physically put new ideas to the test, a robotics lab program and even culinary classes.
“We can teach a cooking class, but to approach the class in a way of how the science is put behind it, all of a sudden baking is fascinating,” Borowski said. “It would teach the background of why the reactions cause the things they do.”
Borowski is also a partner in design and research with Edible Infrastructures, a city-planning firm that is dedicated to researching the link between food and urban infrastructure.
The plan has already been presented to the local community at various meetings, and is continuously gaining support.
“The potential is huge, and it will be up to us to think about what this thing will give and test how this idea can be explored over multiple mediums,” he said. “We’re thinking broad, and I think it’s going to be the way we go through the process and see what the community wants.”